TALLINN - Estonia's foreign minister dismissed Russian accusations earlier Monday that it glorifies Nazism.
"Estonia, like the majority of countries, condemns Nazism," Urmas Paet said, adding Nazism was a criminal ideology and the notion should not used in modern politics, which Russia is doing.
Russia's Foreign Ministry condemned a meeting of veterans of Estonia's Waffen SS division in the Baltic state over the weekend, calling it an outrageous event and regretting that it received official backing.
"The open glorification of former Nazi fighters' actions in World War II by the Estonian government, voiced in a congratulatory speech to members of the Nazi coven by the defense minister, is especially outrageous," the ministry said.
But Paet said Russia should focus on internal problems like "growing chauvinism."
TALLINN - Estonian police said Monday they have authorized a gay parade in the center of Tallinn August 11 following initial opposition to the event based on security concerns.
Police suggested in mid-July that organizers reroute the march away from the city center, saying six participants in the 500-strong Tallinn Pride parade were seriously injured when attacked by Estonian nationalists last year.
Several organizations representing sexual minorities in the ex-Soviet Baltic state of 1.4 million approached the president, prime minister and other senior government and city officials for assistance after the police refusal.
The issue was resolved when organizers agreed to hire security guards to ensure the marchers' safety in line with police recommendations.
TALLINN - The number of tourists visiting Estonia dipped by 26,000 in 2006, according to official government statistics.
In 2006 1.4 million foreign tourists were recorded staying in accommodation in Estonia, a reduced number despite a considerably expanded stock of rooms available.
The main reason for the decrease in the total number of foreign tourists given by Statistics Estonia was a decrease in the number of Finnish tourists. The number of Finns visiting decreased by 6 percent, recording the first drop in more than 10 years.
In Estonia, prices for alcoholic beverages are rising and their sale is now subject to tougher regulations.
The Estonian newspaper believes this policy could have a negative impact on tourism. "We shouldn't deceive ourselves that all the visitors to Estonia are coming just to admire our beautiful countryside and the sites of interest.
Most of them are vodka tourists, shoppers or brothel patrons, and for them the law of the free market applies : when the prices go up too high, they'll look for cheaper places to enjoy themselves.
This is what this is all about : cranking up the pressure on this kind of tourist and putting an end to the Finns leaving the supermarkets on the harbour loaded down with crates of beer every evening and the stag parties of the Brits."
TALLINN - A plan to change the way farm subsidies are paid in Estonia is making the nation's farmers apprehensive, the daily Postimees reports.
The Agriculture Ministry plans to replace direct subsidies with development support to encourage more efficient practices. Farmers fear however that the new rules will channel money out of their pockets and into those of operators of 'tourist farms', the paper says.
Member states of the European Union have until the end of this year to present the European Commission with their proposals concerning distribution of farming subsidies, the ministry's deputy secretary general Andres Oopkaup said.
In his words, Estonia backs the view that subsidies to a member state must be calculated on the basis of the size of well-cultivated land and the outlay to cultivate the land rather than historical volumes of production. Estonia is also in favor of increasing development support in the EU budget, which will result in a decrease in direct subsidies.
TALLINN - If you’re planning to go to the legendary Viljandi Folk Festival in the coming days, take my advice – go by train. It might just prove to be more entertaining than the festival itself. Here’s an account of my journey to last year’s festival.
The Baltic Train Station platform was alive with atmosphere. Hundreds of young people bustled about, their cargo piled in a mountain that stretched the length of the platform – guitar cases, backpacks, tents and canvas sacks. Estonia’s most cherished music festival was about to begin in Viljandi, some three hours away from Tallinn, and fans were mobilizing en mass to get there. For many people who attend the Viljandi Folk Festival the “Folgirong” (or “Folk Train”) becomes the highlight of the entire four-day event – at least, it certainly was for me.
We rushed to claim a bench when the train doors opened, and all the ten carriages were quickly swamped by the mass of brightly dressed young people. There was hardly a single person on the train over the age of 25, and everyone radiated jubilation. We bustled and bounced and chattered like kids on the way to summer camp.
* Bucharest, Athens and London the most unpopular capital cities in the European Union, while Copenhagen, Luxembourg andTallinn count as the favorites.
An European study, conducted in 75 cities, shows that Turkey and Croatia, as countries, and Bucharest and Athens cause the highest levels of discontent because of the lack of green space, public gardens, pollution and the low level of safety, Reuters informed on Thursday.
The poll, conducted in November 2006, shows that 70% of the respondents declared they can find good jobs easier in Prague, Copenhagen and Dublin.
Still, Luxembourg and Dublin also have their problems, mainly in housing-related issues. Finding a place to live may prove difficult and very expensive in the two capitals, as well as in Paris.
TALLINN – Estonia’s Green Party claims it has succeeded in collecting the 21 signatures it needs to call an extraordinary session of the Riigikogu, Estonia's parliament, next month.
The head of the Greens faction, Valdur Lahtvee, told Baltic News Service he does not yet know the exact number of deputies who signed the petition but that he is certain it is above the required minimum threshold.
“What matters right now is that we have the necessary number of signatures and can call the extra meeting,” he said.
Opposition parties want to put two bills on the agenda of an extra session, with August 13 a likely date.
The Greens demanded an extraordinary session after they noted that Prime Minister Andrus Ansip has been committing Estonia to participation in the Lithuanian nuclear power plant project despite the fact that the current national energy strategy contains no definite provision for the use of nuclear power.
* The latest edition of “Fast Company” magazine (soon to be my favorite magazine if Business 2.0 goes under) rates the 30 “fastest” cities in the world. They “scoured the globe in search of the perfect place to transplant yourself and your business” using attributes such as green leaders, R&D clusters, and culture centers.
Unfortunately Helsinki didn’t make their list (although their website calls Helsinki “Absolutely the capital of mobility and design”) but our two neighbors Tallinn and Stockholm did, and St. Petersburg is listed as “on the verge” - here’s what they had to say…
The capital of Estonia, as it’s known, is the most connected city in Europe. There are no Internet cafés, because wireless service is everywhere and mostly free. (Universal Net access is actually guaranteed by Parliament.) Wi-Fi is free on commuter trains, and drivers pay parking fees by text message. Cyberattacks may happen, but the place radiates a switched-on vibe–an ease with and saturation of technology, and an abundance of youth.
Home to almost 2,500 green-sector companies and powered by the research output of its Karolinska, Beijer, and IVL institutes, Stockholm is the fuel cell under the hood of a country that aims to be oil-free by 2010. Its Hammarby Sjöstad district is a living eco-laboratory of 4,000 apartments with quadruple-glazed windows, ovens and cookers that run on biogas from wastewater, and central heating wired to photovoltaics.
Feel free to nominate Helsinki (or any other city) on their website and leave your comments.
TALLINN - A congress of former servicemen from the 20th SS division and other Estonian veterans who served in different German military units during WWII has started in the Vaivara district of Estonia near the border with Russia.
A number of SS veterans from Norway and Austria are among the 250- 300 participants in the congress.
The event is proceeding under special police guard, who are checking all the arriving delegates.
The congress started near the Sinimae hills, the scene of the worst battle in Estonia in WWII, which took place in the summer of 1944.
The veterans, holding the flags of the units they served for, heard a prayer and then laid wreaths at a memorial rock in honor of the 20th SS division servicemen who were killed in action, and also to the commemorative plaques in honor of the Danish, Dutch, and Norwegian SS legionaries who fought there.
TALLINN - Estonia is leading the Baltics in export growth, as exports have increased in the last five years by 2.1 times, compared to a two-fold growth in both Latvian and Lithuanian exports, according to Statistical Office data. Imports have at the same time kept pace, showing an increase in volume by 2.1 times in both Estonia and Latvia, while in Lithuania the increase was slightly less, at 1.9 times.
Despite strong continued growth in imports for 2006, a slight slowdown in export growth had a negative impact on Estonia’s foreign trade balance.
TALLINN - Serious drunk driving is set to become a criminal offense after Justice Minister Rein Lang announced a crackdown on the practice that continues to claim lives on Estonian roads. Lang said those caught with a blood alcohol level of 0.15 or higher would be punished under the criminal code. “In the case of a blood alcohol level of 0.15, one can no longer speak of alcohol residue or carelessness,” Lang told the newspaper Postimees.
“A blood alcohol level of that rank clearly shows that the person had knowingly sat behind the wheel when intoxicated.” Currently, drunk drivers can only be tried under criminal charges if they are repeat offenders. All others are classified as misdemeanor offenses, under which drivers are normally punished with a fine. But days after the ministers announced the impending changes, drivers showed no concern. A police crackdown on traffic offenses on the weekend of July 20-22 netted almost 700 drivers. Of those, 56 were caught driving under the influence of alcohol, 164 were caught speeding, and 11 had to be taken into custody due to their drunken state.
At the same time, newspapers criticized police for not acting fast enough to mete out punishment to Tallinn City Mayor and Center Party leader Edgar Savisaar. Savisaar was caught driving 51 kilometers per hour over the speed limit along a road in the Laane-Viru county on July 10.
While other drivers are served with misdemeanor notices speedily, Savisaar has yet to be processed, leading some to suggest he had received special treatment. A police spokeswoman acknowledged that many other drivers have their punishment fixed very quickly, but said Savisaar would know the final decision by Aug. 27.
3rd Extreme sport festival Extreme BATTLE 2007 is going to take place at 24-26 august in Tartu downtown - Town Hall Square, on the river Emajõgi and at the Toome Hill.
To the Town Hall Square goes up : miniramp, mini skatepark, freestyle jumps, flatland and biketrial arena; Küüni street will be conquered by crossing; On the river Emajõgi will be held a wakeboard competition and down the Toome Hill will be hurtling crazy downhill drivers.
Already traditionally we wait everyone who likes extreme sports to come to Tartu at the very last weekend of the summer to get the final adrenaline dosage in a very nice atmosphere.
Extreme BATTLE combines 8 extreme sport areas and overall will be compeated in 15 disciplines. * BMX (freestyle, flatland ja street crossing) * MTB (street crossing and freestyle) * Skateboard (street crossing, best trick contest) * Roller skates (street crossing) * Scooter (street crossing, best trick contest) * Biketrial (main contest, speedtrial, vertical step) - elite, expert, sport, beginner * Wakeboard * Downhill
To this insane adrenaline we add the feel of Tartu old town by enjoyable music, friendly comity and best public and for the results we get extreme sport festival Extreme BATTLE 2007.
The origin of the attacks on Estonia's Internet infrastructure may never be known. Hackers typically don't sign their work with real names.
The denial-of-service attacks that began in April are linked, at least in a time sequence, to the removal of a statue honouring a Second World War Soviet soldier from a public park in the Estonian capital of Tallinn.
One in four Estonian citizens is of Russian descent and many take great pride in "liberating" Estonia from the Germans. Many ethnic Estonians hated the Soviets then, hate Russia now and are not particularly grateful to the Red Army, which departed in 1994 only.
The removal of the statue triggered several days of street protests in Estonia by the Russian minority, which the authorities anticipated. They also anticipated Internet-based attacks, but not their scale nor duration.
* Ilkka Kanerva (cons), Finland's foreign minister, said Friday at the Suomi Areena 2007 forum in Pori that it looked like Estonia would also receive an invitation to next summer's Finno-Ugric world congress in Russia.
Mr Kanerva's comments were made shortly after talking on the phone toTarja Halonen, Finland's president.
President Halonen and Ferenc Gyurcsány, Hungary's prime minister, participated in a Finno-Ugric folk festival in Saransk, Russia, on Thursday while the third independent Finno-Ugric state Estonia was left without an invitation.
Mr Kanerva said that Russia now seemed to be taking the status of ethnic minorities seriously.
He advocated direct and honest dialogue. "I think that Russia has no better neighbour than Finland in any direction," the foreign minister said.
* Tallinn, Estonia-based Oskando, a 14-person telematics company, codeveloped a fleet management technology platform with Connecty called the SeeMe platform. Ülle Kivirähk, Oskando's CEO, says SeeMe is hardware, software, and middleware that provides online tracking of vehicles and a history of their movements. For example, a dispatcher at a small pizza delivery or taxi fleet can far more efficiently route cars to the next task and monitor drivers.
The platform is undergoing trials in Estonia, a country that often serves as a testing ground for new technologies. "If the technology is made reliable here, then it's taken abroad," Kivirähk says.
Both Oskando and Connecty are in the portfolio of Estonia-based venture capital firm Ambient Sound Investments. Kivirähk says more such partnerships are necessary in telematics. "The market is young and fragmented, and many small companies are working in telematics," she explains. "But the technology is complicated, and it's difficult to succeed if you are too small."
* In May the number of foreign tourists staying in Estonian accommodation establishments dropped by 8,000 compared to the same month last year, with declines recorded in the number of both Finnish and Russian tourists, the Statistical Office reports.
Compared to May 2006, fewer tourists arrived from the main partner countries of the Estonian tourism sector -- Finland, Sweden and Germany. At the same time the number of tourists from other neighboring countries -- Latvia, Lithuania and Norway -- increased.
The number of tourists from Finland, the principal partner of Estonian accommodation establishments, showed a continued downtrend. Compared to May 2006, the number of Finnish tourists decreased by 10 percent. The share of Finnish tourists in accommodation establishments is large -- more than half of foreign visitors come from Finland.